literature

Book Review: A Thread Unbroken by Kay Bratt

4 Out of 5 Stars

I just laid my eleven month old son down to sleep. His moist little breaths gently brushed my skin. His tiny hand had a hold on my shirt, his fingers toying with the button on my blouse. I rocked him slowly back and forth, listening to the quite snorts that pass for snores most nights. Looking down on his peaceful little face, with chubby cheeks, full pouty lips, and eyelashes any grown woman would pay for, my heart was filled with so much love that it felt tight in my chest, as it does every day and  night when I have a quite moment alone with my son. It is with that feeling still so fresh, and my heart still so full, that I sit down to write this review.

The topics and themes presented in “A Thread Unbroken” are not easy ones to digest. There is almost nothing in my privileged American middle  class life that could help me understand the mindset that leads to human trafficking. I know that were my son to be a daughter I would still feel the same about her. Were he to be physically deformed, mentally disabled, or otherwise imperfect in the eyes of society, I would still love him and care for him with all my heart. I was raised in a world where children are cherished treasures rather than economic boons or burdens. Many Americans, and in fact, many of the reviewers that I have read, come from a similar background and feel that “A Thread Unbroken” is unbelievable. Unfortunately, while the larger Chinese cities have become increasingly more progressive, life in rural China marches on much as it always has with little regard to technological innovation. It is ruled by traditional values, those that see strong sons as a priceless economic treasure, and daughters as a burden until they are married and gone to produce strong sons of their own for the husbands that rule the household.

In “A Thread Unbroken” we have three families affected by the girls’ abduction. father Jun adores his daughter. He has never seen his two little girls as anything but strong and capable individuals. He encourages their education and is unwilling to allow the search for a husband to decide his daughters’ futures. Josie on the other hand, physically disabled and not fit to be a bride, is responsible for caring for her father’s pigs, taking care of her young siblings, and helping her mother care for the house. The third family is a traditional fishing family living in near seclusion from the modern world. The people of their village openly purchase girls stolen from other parts of China to become brides for their sons, as there are few women around.

Through each family we get a glimpse of how China feels about their girls, and the economic and social reasons behind why human trafficking exists,  and what can be done to stop it. Chai is strong because her father has empowered her to be so.  Her father never stops searching for her, and she never stops searching for a way to get back to him. Josie relies on Chai to find the answers, to rescue them. She is timid and emotionally immature. Her father gives up the search quickly, merely lamenting that there is no one there to care for the pigs and help take care of the small children. The family the girls find themselves forced to become a part of is ruled by their father and the eldest son. Nothing is done without their permission.

Despite such a heavy topic, the story is not dark. I would go so far as to say it is sugar coated. The girls are not beaten, and for the most part are not abused. There are many girls, and boys, around the world who have it worst. The general smoothness and ease of the story, and the narration makes it an excellent introduction to trafficking for mature middle grade students (eighth grade) and younger high school students, though it is also a good read for adults. Be warned, though, that there is one graphic scene late in the book. It reads well for an adult as well. If the prose are simple, and the ending a fairy tale, it can be forgiven. “A Thread Unbroken” shows a gentler version of a dark and violent world making it more accessible for younger readers, and those who don’t often read dark fiction. The story opens up the floor for conversation, but leaves the reader feeling like there is hope, like things can change.

Kay Bratt lived in China for nearly five years and advocates for Chinese children and girls. Her passion shows in her writing. She has penned several novels around these subjects and I look forward to circling back and reading some more of them in the future. I can recommend one other book if you read this and found the story interesting. Sold by Patricia McCormick is the story of 13-year-old Lakshmi who is sold into prostitution to pay off her family’s debts. Please feel free to write you suggestions or thoughts in the comments. Human trafficking is an important issue, and the more literature can do to help get the message out, the better.

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#TBT Book Memories: XXXHolic

I know this is a day late, but unfortunately my tablet went missing last night and it was much to late to finish my post by the time I found it. In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, every week I share a memory related to a book. It could be my impressions of a book. It could be a memory of when I received the book, or what was happening in my life while I read it, and how the story affected me. If you would like to play along, simply do the same, and post your link in the comments.

Manga and graphic novels are one of my favorite forms of literature. They offer me a reading experience that is both visually and mentally stimulating, and thoroughly different than reading a novel. Instead of relying on my mind to illustrate the world I am momentarily inhabiting, I get lost in the world the author and extremely talented illustrators have created for me. This week, I have chosen a manga for Throwback Thursday; “XXXHolic” by CLAMP. The XXX in the title is misleading as there is nothing explicit about the story.  I will preface this by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a huge CLAMP fangirl. “Chobits” is the only other manga / anime by them that held my interest. “XXXHolic” is more adult and mature than the other works of theirs I have had the opportunity to glance through, like “Card Captor Sakura” and “Angelic Layer”.  Back in 2004, CLAMP was most well known for their shojo (girly) stories. “XXXHolic” was a departure from that, featuring a male lead. The cover art is what caught my eye and the summary sealed the deal.

It is difficult to explain what it is I love about XXXHolic. The word that comes to mind when I think of the story is ‘haunting’. The protagonist is literally haunted by demons and ghosts, but he is also haunted by his thoughts and the plights of the people that he interacts with throughout the story. The dimensional witch, Yuuko, is haunting in her own way. She is mysterious, powerful, and somewhat frightening, as many a fictional witch are. The woodblock print art style with gothic lolita elements and the color palette for those images that are not in black and white further the feeling. “XXXHolic” is dark, beautiful, and emotional. And yes, as with most manga, also a little bit silly. I stopped reading several books in for financial reasons, but the upcoming Kumoricon in Vancouver, WA got me thinking about the mangas I used to read and the animes I used to follow. It is an older story, but worth checking out. I, for one, intend to finish it one day.

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